A Loss of Innocence in Madison

So many days passed, so many words lost  into that constant we call “time”!

Despite recent struggles with articulating thoughts, I haven’t abandoned this, my respite.  But I do find myself more and more in need of that fictitious thing called a “Pensieve” : (“I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind…. At these times… I use the Pensieve.  One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure.” ~JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Unfortunately, that is not an option for me.

Earlier today I was trying to remember a word I heard over 14 years ago. It was a word I read in the documents an attorney had given my husband and I describing the particulars of what somebody was suing us for following a car accident. I stress the word because, while the law in this state is if you rear end someone you’re automatically considered at fault, the facts of the accident were that we clipped a vehicle that was stopped, under a green light, with no brake lights on. Had my husband NOT swerved to avoid this vehicle as soon as he realized that it was not moving, we would have probably had much, MUCH more damage to both property and life. Ultimately we were indemnified, but that wasn’t where I was going with this.

As we looked over the document (in complete disbelief), it said we were being sued for emotional distress and (some word I can’t remember). The attorney explained that the SPOUSES of the 2 women in the other car were suing us for “loss of companionship” and that the other (unknown) word meant basically that these women were one way before the accident and now they were irrevocably changed. He further explained that because of the subjective nature of the claim, it was almost impossible to disprove. I wish I could remember that word, but from what I found today while looking, it is now referred to as “Quality of life damages (sometimes called hedonic): the inability to enjoy life or activities as before the harm.

A while ago, I wrote a post on the loss of innocence. The difficulties in having to watch as my children were painfully ushered into adulthood by life’s realities.

We watch as they go from believing everything,

to believing mostly,

to trying to sustain belief in the face of doubtful encounters with their peers,

to acknowledging that the magical KNOWING of things in their world has faded,

to experiencing life’s tragedies and knowing what grief feels like inside their own skins,

to questioning everything with a sometimes cynical expectation that their perceptions of the worst case scenario will become reality.

As a parent this is the part of having kids that pains me the most. Even as I realize that we are the sum of ALL our experiences and that people learn and grow most by walking through life’s storms.

The events of this past Friday here in our smallish town reflected every parent’s worst nightmare. Every parent who had a child in either of the middle schools or high school felt that free-falling  in the pit of their stomach as their cell phones went off, messages from their child or friends stating, “There’s been a shooting at school”.

WHAT?! Disbelief was short lived as my cell phone began an almost staccato peppering of beeps with tweets and messages from others confirming that yes, it was true and that the middle school my child does NOT go to was on lockdown while they rushed a 14 year old boy in “extremely critical condition” to the hospital and apprehended the 15 year old boy who fired the gun.

As a relief washed over me that it wasn’t MY children’s schools involved, the next thought sent my stomach plummeting again: oh my sweet Lord, the parents whose children were involved!

As my heart ached, I did the only thing I knew I COULD do: I began to pray. From the center of the maelstrom, with each rippling wave of fear outward, this event touched every soul in this small community. Even as I prayed for peace to deride the impetus of fear that flows from grief, I did so with the understanding that a time-dividing moment had occurred, forever separating life “before the shooting” and “after the shooting”. Even in families with children too young to know what had happened, the unspoken fear inside a parent’s heart can be felt. Hedonic damages have occurred in our lives. A harm has been visited on each of us that will affect our lives – our children’s lives – altering the way we perceive the world around us.

And no matter how we each react to our own personal fears and grief, no matter how sincerely we believe in Providence’s infinite healing powers to surpass all our finite understanding, no matter how we move through our grief to the other side, an innocence has been lost and cannot be restored.

My youngest went to the “other” middle school. When news came to her in the final class of the day, the students responded by joining hands and praying. When she arrived home, after being hugged for an exceptionally long time by her mama, I asked her if she wanted to talk about what had happened.

“Nah, not right now. I’m just going to go up to my room, okay?”

And she went upstairs to her room and did what she does: turned on her computer and began to type. This is what she had to say, not wanting to talk much at all:


((I know. What business do I have writing this? I didn’t know them. I had no connection, at least none directly.
But I had to. I don’t know why, I just had to write something. and this is what came out.)

They say it sounded like a door slam,
Or a popped balloon, with whatever inside released;
But something shattered a life, a community,
And at the same time, shattered peace

I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t know,
The bullet screamed inside the other school
All I know is everyone’s breath caught
At the knowledge of somebody, taken so cruel

It was a whispered start,
One that could stop a heart –
“Someone’s been shot, someone’s been shot,
Someone at Discovery, they’ve been shot.”

It wasn’t our problem,
Our school wasn’t the site of this plan
But you wouldn’t know that by our closed eyes,
Our begging words, our clasped hands

The mayor flickers on the TV behind me,
Reassuring, and talking, with information to tell;
But all that comprehends is the names, the ages,
And not, not ever, the reason they fell

The information keeps pouring
And I’m reeling back, horrified
He WAS my age, He WAS a good guy,
Now…he’s not alive

In the pit of my stomach, something cold turns
As the impact hits me with the unspeakable force;
There is truly no one that I know of,
Truly no one who has it worse

Then the women that must close their eyes tonight
And dream of their baby boys’ faces;
Forevermore, now they can only touch,
A headstone, stamped with names and ages

Then the men who have to look down,
And try to understand their sons’ eyes;
One pair dark, lifeless, closed forever,
One pair unready to face the jury’s tries

Then the friends who will return
To the scene, in three days’ time;
Will they walk like zombies, staring at the ground,
Or will they laugh and talk and pretend everything’s fine?

What lead up to this?
What could we of done?
Was there some route somebody could’ve taken
That would save more than one family’s son?

We’ll never know now,
A community in shock
We taste the bitter words,
But we just can’t talk

I didn’t know them;
Now, I never will
But the web of connections leads me far away
And the feeling keeps my soul unstill

Rest in peace, Stranger;
Your death has brought us all to our knees
And whatever made you do it, Shooter,
I hope you realize what you’ve done to our peace



View the Community Meeting held Sunday here:

One Response

  1. Both of these well written. Even feeling your pain, acknowledging all the unanswered fears, questions, only to reveal the insanity of it all. Plenty of questions, so few answers.
    Thank you both for your writings.

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